There is so much culture to soak up on this island from historic temples to picturesque sunsets, and idyllic sandy beaches. Here is an essential Bali guide covering all the cool places to stay as well as the best things to do, see, and eat while visiting the island.
Explore Bali: a guide to the island’s hidden gems
Where to stay in Bali
So you’ve hopped off the plane and ready to start your tropical getaway. First things first, drop your bags off at your Bali HQ. A top travel destination, it is no surprise Bali has a plethora of accommodation available—resort, hotels, villas and hostels—that are on the beachfront, in the city centre or in the jungle.
A fashionable place to stay in Seminyak
For a fashionable stay in Bali, head to the beach resort area of Seminyak. Boasting several high-end restaurants, boutiques, and a long stretch of sandy beach along the coast of the Indian Ocean, Seminyak won’t disappoint.
If you want to fit in with the hip crowd, book a night at Dash Hotel. This super cool hotel blends industrial chic with luxury, with rooms artistically designed in bold colours and modern artwork.
Iron headboards accentuate the building’s contemporary style, and all bathrooms come with a bath tub and rain shower. If you’re ready to take the plunge, head to the hotel’s very glitzy swimming pool and cool off after a day of sightseeing. Otherwise grab a seriously good cocktail at the hotel’s in house bar, Mya, and prepare for a night on the town.
A surfer's home-away-from-home
Uluwatu is renowned for its dramatic coastline and excellent surfing spots. It’s also home to Tanah Lot and Uluwatu temples. Sounds like a pretty cool place, right? To appreciate all Uluwatu has to offer, spend a couple of days at S Resorts Hidden Valley.
Located six-and-a-half kilometres from Uluwatu temple, this resort offers both Balinese style thatched hats and more modern accommodation options. Rooms are tasteful in design, combining neutral tones with splashes of lime green and burgundy. King-sized beds make for a dreamy slumber, and large windows ensure plenty of natural light.
If the ocean is not your thing, cool off in one of the four different pools, and sip on a freshly-prepared cocktail served from the swim-up-bar. For those wanting to try their hand at surfing, the resort also offers day programs with surf guides and instructors.
Venture out and stay at a Gili Islands resort
If you want to venture out of Bali, head to the Gili Islands, a scenic destination boasting idyllic sandy beaches and coconut palms. A couple of days here is recommended, so head to Ombak Sunset for a truly relaxing stay. Arguably the main selling point of Ombak Sunset is the Datu Swing, which allows you to swing over the gentle waves and appreciate stunning views of Mount Agung.
The hotel offers different accommodation options, but for something a little indulgent go for the sunset bungalow. These free-standing bungalows are minimalist in design and are decorated with typical Balinese furnishings and fabrics. And the best part is you get your very own private terrace! To cool off, make use of the 40-metre swimming pool and swim up to the Blue Coral Pool Bar for some refreshments.
What to see in Bali
While many go to Bali to party, it is inevitable that, at some point, you will want to give your liver a break and explore Indonesia’s natural beauty. So to help guide you day of adventure, we’ve rounded up some of the best things to see in Bali and the surrounding areas.
Tanah Lot, the Balinese translation for “Land in the Sea”, is one of Bali’s most renowned temples located on a large rock offshore. To reach the temple itself you must walk through small streets lined with stalls selling tourist merchandise and local produce. Due to the temple’s location, visitors can only enter access it if the tide is low.
However, the view from the shore of the waves crashing against the temple is still breathtaking. The most popular time to visit Tanah Lot is at sunset when the temple is silhouetted against the orange and red hues of the sky—the perfect backdrop for an Instagram photo! If you would rather not share the views with flocks of tourists, aim to get there before noon when the temple is less crowded.
The equally beautiful Uluwatu temple, or Pura Luhur Uluwatu, sits on top of a cliff 70 metres above the Indian Ocean. This temple is one of the nine directional temples of Bali which are believed to protect it from the evil spirits.
Monkeys inhabit Uluwatu temple and can be seen splashing in the fountain and playing in the trees. Make sure to keep a close eye on your belongings as these little guys are notorious for stealing glasses, cameras, and anything they can get their hands on!
Visitors must wear a sarong or a sash to cover their legs before entering the grounds. This type of attire is commonplace at most religious attractions so it is something to take note of when planning a trip to one of the temples.
Watch the sunset at Blue Point
There are so many beautiful beaches where you can watch the sunset in Bali, but one of the most popular spots is Blue Point beach in Uluwatu. Grab a cold bottle of Bintang at the famous cliff side bar Single Fin for the best view of the sun setting on the beach horizon.
Get there early to grab a good seat as this place is very popular with backpackers and surfers and it fills up quickly! Some other incredible spots to watch the sun go down include: The Rock Bar, Ku De Ta, and Jimbaran Bay.
What to do in Bali
So you’ve walked around and have seen the sights, but now you’re craving to get active. While dancing to the early hours can be seen as being active, we’ve rounded up some of the top things to do in Bali so you can truly make the most of your time in paradise.
Climb Mount Batur
Mount Batur stands 1717ft above sea level and it is located in Batur village in the Kintamani region. The hike up Mount Batur takes about two hours to reach the summit, and if you book the 3am tour you arrive just in time for sunrise. The best option is to book a guided tour as the local guides know the quickest, and safest routes to the top.
Once you reach the top, the tour guides rustle up a breakfast of fried bananas and boiled eggs, which they cook in the hot volcanic steam. Be sure to wear warm clothes as the temperature in the early hours of the morning at the top of the mountain can be very cold!
At sunrise, stand above the clouds and watch the sun break the darkness and rise to the horizon. From the peak of the mountain, you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Batur. Don’t forget to pack your camera—you do not want to miss footage of this breathtaking view!
You can book your trek through agencies via your hotel, tourist offices, or online. When organising your trek, book through a reputable agency that can offer you transfers to and from the mountain as well as an experienced tour guide. There are many different packages to choose from starting with a basic hike to a full day trip inclusive of other activities.
Visit the beaches
Whether it’s the exotic black volcanic beaches of the west or the tropical white sandy beaches in the south, there’s a vast array of stunning beaches to choose from in Bali. Padang Padang is a bit of a hidden gem tucked away down windy steps in Uluwatu.
This beach is one of the famous surf points in Bali, making it the ideal spot to watch surfers tackle the waves, or if you’re feeling adventurous, try out a surfing lesson yourself. For non-surfers, it’s also the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy the sun. Some other beautiful beaches to visit include Seminyak beach, Echo beach and Jimbaran beach.
Take a trip to the Gili Islands
Situated just off the coast of Bali, the Gilis are made up of three small islands: Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, and Gili Air. Gili Trawangan, or Gili T, is the largest of the three and the most visited by tourists. The islands are easy to get to via boat and ferry to and from Bali throughout the day. You can buy the tickets directly at the harbour, from a travel agency, or through your hotel. The journey takes about two hours on the fast boat so it’s worth staying a night or two to make the most of what the islands have to offer.
Rent a bike
There are no motor vehicles on Gili T so the only way to get around is on foot, bicycle, or horse and cart, locally known as ‘Cidomos’. Gili T is only about five miles in circumference so it can be comfortably cycled around in an hour or two.
Some hotels on the island have bikes which you can borrow for free or you can rent one for about Rp20,000 ($1.5) an hour, or at an even better value, ask for the daily rate. Be sure to ask for a bike lock and use it when you want to stop somewhere for a cocktail along the way!
Snorkel or scuba dive
If you want to learn to dive then the Gili Islands are one of the best, and cheapest, places to do so. Gili T has several PADI and SSI dive centres which offer diving packages for all levels of experience from introductory to experienced dives.
If you would rather snorkel, you can rent equipment from the dive centres or kiosks in the street. Half day snorkelling and dive trips take you to the best parts of the islands where you can see a whole range of exotic fish, coral, and if you’re lucky – turtles!
What to eat in Bali
While Mi Goreng out of a packet is pretty delicious, you’re bound to be blown away by the fresh and authentic cuisine on offer all around Bali. Whether it be breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, there is no shortage of restaurants in Bali. And if anything, you will struggle to choose from all of the amazing places to eat!
Brunch in Seminyak
Breakfast and brunch are the most popular times to eat out in Bali, particularly amongst tourists. Most breakfast spots offer really fresh wholesome options such as smashed avocado and poached eggs on sourdough bread, fluffy banana pancakes, and the famous Acai bowls or ‘Nalu’ bowls. Make sure to check out Sisterfields, Cafe organic, and Shelter in Seminyak for some of the best brunches on the island!
Give street food a go!
If you’re keen to fully immerse yourself in the Balinese culture then you must try the delicious Indonesian cuisine that Bali has to offer. There are restaurants and street vendors offering Indonesian dishes on every corner, however, the quality of the food can be variable so it’s good to seek out the best places in advance
Dine at Merah Putih
Merah Putih in Seminyak is the perfect option for anyone hoping to taste the real Bali. This restaurant serves classic Indonesian fare using ingredients of the highest quality alongside creative dishes that experiment with traditional spices and flavours. Their menu is split into a ‘traditional’ section, including famous Balinese dishes such as Gado-Gado and Nasi Goreng, and a ‘modern’ section where you can find imaginative culinary creations which take a twist on the more traditional dishes. Indonesian food is typically eaten group style so most restaurants serve dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to share from.
Feature image courtesy of Jacob Lund / Fotolia